Bug causes clock problems on Windows 10, 11, Windows Server

A recently-discovered bug in newer versions of Windows is causing bizarre local time shifts.

Keeping accurate time on computers is important for a lot of reasons, many of which are not obvious to non-technical users. Update schedules, scheduled background tasks, synchronization with server and cloud resources, and many other time-sensitive processes depend on your PC maintaining accurate time.

Because it’s so important, and because various factors can sometimes cause a PC’s clock to drift, operating systems use a variety of methods to check and adjust it. The most obvious of these in Windows can be seen in Windows 10 and 11 in Settings > Time & Language. Windows regularly compares the PC’s clock with an Internet-based clock, such as time.windows.com. When a discrepancy is observed, the PC’s clock is updated.

Between a PC’s internal clock and Windows’ time synchronization, most Windows-based computers are able to maintain accurate time.

But at some point, someone at Microsoft decided that Windows needed additional time checks. So they created something called Secure Time Seeding. This function regularly analyzes secure network traffic from a ‘known good’ host computer, and calculates the current time based on what it sees.

Sounds good, right? Anything that makes the clock more accurate is good, right? Well, no. There’s at least one major problem with Secure Time Seeding, which causes it to get confused about the date and time, and can set your computer’s time based on random values. This has been observed to incorrectly change the Windows clock by minutes, hours, days, or more. As you can imagine, this causes all manner of strange problems.

Microsoft’s response to the report of this bug has been disappointing: they are downplaying its scope and effects. And while it’s true that there are very few reports of this happening, the problems it can cause are bad enough that anyone running Windows 10 and up or Windows Server 2016 and up should disable Secure Time Seeding.

To disable Secure Time Seeding on a Windows 10 or 11 PC, follow the instructions provided by Microsoft.

Trying to make sense of the actions and statements of a corporate behemoth like Microsoft is an exercise in futility. It’s possible that they will realize that this bug is actually very bad, and fix it, or they may find a way to limit its effects, or they may change the feature so that it’s disabled by default. But in the meantime, there are potentially millions of computers out there that might start exhibiting strange clock problems for the forseeable future.

What is a terminal?

A terminal, also known as a command-line interface (CLI), shell, or console, is a text-based interface used to interact with a computer’s operating system. It provides a way for users to execute commands by typing them as text input, rather than using a graphical user interface (GUI) with buttons and menus.

When you open a terminal, you’ll typically see a command prompt, which is a line of text that awaits your input. You can then type various commands, which the terminal interprets and executes, allowing you to perform a wide range of tasks, such as navigating the file system, running programs, configuring system settings, managing processes, and more.

Terminals are particularly favored by developers, system administrators, and power users because they offer more direct and efficient control over the computer compared to GUIs. They are commonly found in Unix-based systems (e.g., Linux and macOS) and can also be accessed on Windows systems through the “Command Prompt” or “PowerShell” applications.

The terminal environment is highly flexible, allowing users to automate tasks using scripts, manage remote systems through SSH (Secure Shell), and access powerful command-line utilities and tools. While using a terminal can have a learning curve, it provides a robust and versatile way to interact with a computer and is an essential tool for many technical professionals.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is the cloud?

The term “cloud” typically refers to cloud computing or cloud services. In the context of technology, the cloud refers to a network of remote servers that are hosted on the internet and used to store, manage, and process data. These servers are usually owned and maintained by a third-party provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud.

Cloud computing allows users to access computing resources and services over the internet on-demand, without the need for local infrastructure or hardware. It provides a convenient way to store and access data, run applications, and perform various computational tasks without relying heavily on physical devices.

One of the key advantages of cloud computing is scalability. Users can easily scale up or scale down their computing resources based on their needs, without having to invest in expensive hardware upgrades or worry about infrastructure maintenance. The cloud also offers flexibility, as users can access their data and applications from any device with an internet connection.

Cloud services are typically offered in different models, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). These models provide varying levels of control and management over the underlying infrastructure, allowing users to choose the level of abstraction that best suits their requirements.

Overall, the cloud has revolutionized the way businesses and individuals store, access, and utilize data and computing resources, offering increased efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility compared to traditional on-premises solutions.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

Microsoft’s empty promises

I was just talking about a recent announcement from Microsoft, in which they assured the general public that their days of messing around with user settings and defaults on Windows were behind them.

In that post, Microsoft claimed that they are “reaffirming our long-standing approach to put people in control of their Windows PC experience”. Which I called out as baloney, since Microsoft has a long history of reverting user settings and defaults when it suits Microsoft.

That was on March 18. Yesterday, a mere six weeks later, The Verge reported that “Microsoft is forcing Outlook and Teams to open links in Edge”.

So this is Microsoft once again changing the way Windows works, to favour their own applications. I’m sure there are workarounds, but I’d be willing to bet that these workarounds will need to be reapplied after Windows updates.

Look, I understand that once a corporation gets to a certain size, it can be very difficult for one hand to know what the other is doing. But as I pointed out in my earlier post, Microsoft has engaged in these problematic behaviours for years. For them to a) claim that they’re innocent; b) “reaffirm their approach”; then c) keep right on doing this stuff… is incredibly annoying.

UPDATE: And the shenanigans continue. As of August 2023, Microsoft is showing annoying popups in Windows 11, urging users to switch to Bing for search. These things are appearing on top of games, presentations, and in other extremely inconvenient contexts. Come on, Microsoft, this is some serious bullshit.

UPDATE 2023Sep11: Ctrl.blog has additional details. It looks like Microsoft’s recent announcements about improving Windows’ behaviour were complete bullshit.

What is a database?

A database is an organized collection of data that is stored and managed in a structured manner. It is designed to efficiently store, retrieve, and manage large amounts of data. A database management system (DBMS) is a software application that enables users to create, manipulate, and access databases.

Databases are used in a variety of applications such as banking systems, e-commerce websites, healthcare systems, social media platforms, and many more. They are essential for managing and organizing data, which helps businesses and organizations make informed decisions based on the insights derived from the data.

Databases can be classified based on the type of data they store, the number of users accessing the data, the structure of the data, and the mode of access. The most common types of databases include relational databases, NoSQL databases, hierarchical databases, and object-oriented databases.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What are cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of data that are stored on a user’s computer or device by a website. They are used to remember user preferences and activities on a website, such as login information, shopping cart contents, or language preferences. Cookies are also used for tracking user behavior and providing personalized experiences, such as targeted advertisements or product recommendations.

There are two types of cookies: session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies are temporary and are deleted when the user closes their browser. Persistent cookies, on the other hand, are stored on the user’s device for a longer period of time, and can be used to track user behavior across multiple sessions.

While cookies are generally harmless, they have raised privacy concerns, as they can be used to collect personal information about users without their knowledge or consent. As a result, many websites now provide options for users to opt-out of cookie tracking or to limit the amount of data that is collected through cookies.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is a web browser?

A web browser, also known as an Internet browser, is a software application that allows users to access and view web sites on the internet. Web browsers are used to navigate the Internet, view web pages, and interact with web-based applications. Examples of popular web browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera. Web browsers use protocols like HTTP, HTTPS, and FTP to request web pages from servers, render the content of those pages, and display them to the user.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is cryptocurrency?

(Ed: before cryptocurrency showed up, the abbreviation ‘crypto’ usually referred to cryptography. Now it’s almost always used to refer to cryptocurrency.)

Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security and operates independently of a central bank. Cryptocurrencies use a decentralized network of computers to maintain and verify transactions, which are recorded on a public ledger called a blockchain.

Unlike traditional currencies, which are backed by governments or other centralized authorities, cryptocurrencies are not issued or regulated by any single entity. Instead, they rely on complex mathematical algorithms and protocols to create new units and verify transactions.

The most well-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which was created in 2009. Since then, thousands of other cryptocurrencies have been developed, each with its own unique features and use cases.

Cryptocurrencies are often used for online purchases, investments, and as a store of value. They have gained popularity due to their ability to operate independently of government or financial institutions, and their potential for anonymity and privacy. However, cryptocurrencies are also subject to volatility and regulatory uncertainty, which can make them a risky investment.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

What is cryptography?

(Ed: before cryptocurrency showed up, the abbreviation ‘crypto’ usually referred to cryptography. Now it’s almost always used to refer to cryptocurrency.)

Cryptography is the practice of securing information by transforming it into a form that is unintelligible to anyone who does not have the proper key or password to decode it. It involves techniques for encrypting and decrypting data to protect it from unauthorized access or modification.

Cryptography has been used throughout history to protect sensitive information such as military secrets, diplomatic messages, and financial transactions. It is now widely used in computer networks to ensure the security of data transmitted over the Internet, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and other confidential information.

Modern cryptography relies on algorithms and protocols that are designed to be mathematically secure and resistant to attacks by hackers or other malicious actors. Common cryptographic techniques include symmetric-key encryption, public-key encryption, digital signatures, and hash functions.

(Ed: written by ChatGPT; verified by jrivett.)

Microsoft frames long-overdue Windows changes as ‘reaffirming our long-standing approach’

Here are the first two paragraphs of a recent post on the Windows blog:

“Today we’re reaffirming our long-standing approach to put people in control of their Windows PC experience and to empower developers to take advantage of our open platform.

We want to ensure that people are in control of what gets pinned to their Desktop, their Start menu and their Taskbar as well as to be able to control their default applications such as their default browser through consistent, clear and trustworthy Windows provided system dialogs and settings.”

These changes are very welcome, and appear to resolve some particularly annoying Windows behaviours that users have been complaining about for decades.

But for Microsoft to frame these much-needed fixes as “we’ve always done this, and now we’re just making sure” is rather amusing. Come on guys, admitting mistakes is healthy. Are you saying these issues are new? Because they’re not. Are you saying you were unaware of these issues? I doubt that very much, because people have been complaining about them for years. No, this is just Microsoft public relations attempting to revise history.

What Microsoft is conveniently leaving out is that the worst offenses of this kind (reverting user settings, pinning and unpinning shortcuts, changing default applications, etc.) have always been committed by Microsoft. For example, Windows Update had a very annoying tendency to revert the default web browser to Internet Explorer.

Microsoft has of course run into legal trouble for some of these behaviours. It seems clear that reverting a user’s default web browser to a Microsoft browser in the process of updating the operating system is unfair to competitors. And Microsoft has been forced to stop doing some of those things.

Anyway, here’s hoping that Microsoft truly is committed, now, to avoiding such devious — and incredibly annoying — practices.

Rants and musings on topics of interest. Sometimes about Windows, Linux, security and cool software.